Delivering outstanding marketing strategies in a way that works for small businesses has been Joel Arbuckle’s top priority since he launched his digital agency in 2015. Joel’s company, Arbuckle Media, is a full-service digital and social media agency specializing in branding, web design and social media management. Joel’s favourite projects are the ones with the opportunity to take inspiration from the current trends that major international brands are using, analyze the nuts and bolts of why they work, and create a blueprint from the same principles that yields results for the little guys.
“Branding is really the sum of all the parts of a business and its people. It’s larger than life,” Joel explains. “Whether you’re talking about a sports franchise, your favourite restaurant, the clothing you buy, or the type of phone you use, there’s something intangible about the experience that can defy all logic when it comes to making a purchase.”
That’s where Joel and the team at Arbuckle Media come in. He says that in order to create assets that genuinely express a brand’s identity, the team has to immerse themselves as much as possible in an organization’s culture. “You’re really becoming part of that organization’s community, and that’s an incredible experience to both build and be a part of,” he says.
And their strategy is working, because their work is getting noticed. Arbuckle Media won a Gold MarCom Award in 2017 in the Branding Refresh category, for a full re-brand they worked on with Safety Services Nova Scotia. The MarCom Awards is an international creative competition that recognizes outstanding achievement by marketing and communication professionals, organized and judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals based in Dallas, Texas. In 2020, they earned a Gold Hermes Award for their visual rebranding work on the logo for the International Racquetball Tour.
Reaching International Success from Nova Scotia Roots
Hailing from the small town of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, Joel’s interest in marketing started early. As a child, he was fascinated by logos and iconography, especially when it came to golf courses. He was particularly drawn to the promotional materials of Pebble Beach Resorts and by the time he was 7, Joel was doodling and dreaming up his own branding ideas for some of the world’s best-known golf destinations. “I was way too young to be interested in that type of thing,” he jokes. “But I was. I loved the picturesque beauty of golf courses and golf architecture, and I wanted to promote them too.”
Joel began his professional career as a freelancer after graduating from Saint Mary’s University with a degree in Marketing Management. In the beginning, he often found himself doing spec work or bidding low on projects to develop his portfolio. As his list of clients grew, he opened Arbuckle Media to help local businesses use similar strategies and software tactics that the big brands were using, in a way that fit their scope. Now his company is working with organizations of all shapes and sizes across Canada and the United States, deploying strategic branding that’s scalable to each organization’s needs and goals.
Joel says the things he loves most about growing his business in Nova Scotia are the amazing people, communities and brands, as well as the virtually unlimited potential he sees all around him. “The connections I’ve made and the ones I hope to make keep me really engaged knowing that I don’t have to leave my backyard to be inspired,” he says fondly of his home province.
World-Class Branding in the Digital Space
The most common questions a new client asks when starting a project with Arbuckle Media are thing like what their online voice should sound like and how to identify their customers’ expectations. Joel agrees that these questions are essential for developing a brand, but adds that it’s what an organization does with the answers that really matters. Once a company understands its brand and its goals have been set, Joel says that the single most impactful thing a business can do is to remain consistent in their delivery.
“This doesn’t mean that a brand can’t have flaws, make mistakes, or be inauthentic. It just means that most brand managers’ mindsets have to shift from constant development, to a more balanced tone involving both creativity and checks and balances,” Joel reveals. “More often than not, a large branding or brand positioning exercise will uncover the same results as the last one, meaning that somewhere along the line the brand has gone off course and needs to be righted by getting back to fundamentals. Simpler is always better.”
Arbuckle Media tackles every branding project with a dual-pronged approach, formulating just the right mixture of art and science for the perfect results. On the creative side, they want their clients delivering the right message, in the right place, at the right time, and to look as good as possible while doing it. The science comes into play as the framework that supports the creative. Arbuckle Media uses the same tools as the big brands to measure and analyze data points, and they put mechanisms in place to capture data and determine what’s working. They’re also platform-agnostic, meaning they believe the best tool for the job is the tool that fits for each individual client, regardless of what they’ve used previously.
Helping Local Businesses Thrive in Challenging Times
While the current global health pandemic has changed how the world is doing business, Joel and his team are helping brands respond. “We’re all hurting together,” he says. “This is our unfortunate reality for the foreseeable future. You’re going to see establishments all around town that either no longer exist or no longer exist in the way we knew them just last month.”
Joel says that best way for small businesses to push through this unexpected disruption is diversification. He says that the less beholden businesses are to a single sales channel or a single online platform, the better they’ll be able to weather the initial storm of a global disruption event, and the inevitable aftershocks. Arbuckle Media has been assisting brick-and-mortar retailers with moving their stores online. They’re building experiences that are product-focused, and they’re helping businesses bridge the gap by changing their models to include strategies like membership-like experiences for their customers and communities, to keep cash flow moving.
“Diversification doesn’t have to dilute your brand either,” Joel says adamantly. “You can still operate based on great experiences, but you have to rethink, now more than ever, how those are going to be shared.”
Joel says that now is the perfect time for businesses to realign their priorities, while teams of key personnel may have extra time on their hands. He says that Arbuckle Media is currently focused on brand positioning and digital marketing strategies that work for the reality we’re all experiencing, but that can still be integrated when things get more stable.
“If you think we were living in a digital-first world before this changed our daily lives, it’s now a digital-first-to-infinity,” says Joel. “Those same buying and consumption habits that people were learning and adapting to before are now evolving at light speed.”